Erika Engle

Local guidebook
series draws delight
and controversy

ON store shelves for a little more than two weeks, "Oahu Revealed, The Ultimate Guide to Honolulu, Waikiki & Beyond," contains surprises for local people and promises delights for visitors, both natural and man-made.

The work of Kauai-based Wizard Publications Inc., the book joins Wizard's guides to Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, published during the last 11 years.


The series has racked up testimonials about perfect vacations, controversy over private-property encroachment by visitors and unhappiness from businesses that received bad reviews.

Some of the issues have caused co-authors Andrew Doughty and Harriet Friedman to withdraw references to certain sites from their guidebooks because of liability concerns, but they have never been sued, Doughty said.

"Everything gets legal clearance before we go to press," said Doughty.

For the Oahu book, Doughty and Friedman lived on the island full time for two years to conduct research.

Typos and references to south-shore locations as "Leeward" notwithstanding, the Oahu book reads like advice from a friend.

The authors pride themselves on doing all their research anonymously, booking reservations under assumed names, not telling anyone they're writing a guidebook and paying full fare the whole way.

Their pictures never appear in the books, they don't do book signings and they decline speaking engagements.

Doughty tells of seeing a guidebook writer introduced as such in a restaurant and getting special service. The subsequent review was glowing, "meanwhile we were sitting in the corner eating gruel," he laughed.

The Oahu book's dining section misses some spots popular with locals and visitors but also steers folks away from other places, such as some of the shrimp places heading up toward Kahuku.

Sometimes a critical review recipient will contact the authors and say, "Gee you must have caught us on a bad day." The thing is, "we've been there more than once. Everybody can have an off day."

Doughty told of an unnamed spot they visited "six times, because what we were saying was so unflattering, we had to be absolutely sure we were being fair."

Phillip Paolo's at Restaurant Row will be unhappy, as the book compares the skills of its bartenders to those found in a Tibetan monastery.

Many of the usual suspects, however, receive "ono" ratings, such as La Mer, Hy's and Hale Koa in Waikiki.

The books bear local favorite "secrets" that become a hit with visitors, such as those who have sought out W & F Washerette Inc. in Kahului.

"This is as local as it gets," the book tells readers. "It's a laundromat that also happens to serve the best shave ice in Central Maui."

Washerette President Daniel Waki said he greets visitors from Florida, Arizona and other states, "some straight off the airplane."

Waki said he didn't even know he'd been written up until shave-ice craving tourists showed him the Maui book. "Originally we made (shave ice) for customers who come to wash their clothes. I figure we have a captive audience." Now that the shave ice draws non-laundering people from far-flung places, sales are up. Waki also sells propane, bagged ice and other items in the business established by his older brothers in 1965.

"Oahu Revealed" sells for $15.95, up from $14.95 for previous editions, due to rising paper costs, Doughty said.

The books are constantly updated. "With the processes we use, it doesn't cost that much extra. It's important that the books stay fresh through the life of each edition.

"Nobody wants a two-year-old guidebook," Doughty said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: eengle@starbulletin.com



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